By now, you've probably heard about the t-shirts that they had made in spring training that said something like "162+" on the front and "Prove Them Wrong" on the back. (If not, I'm guessing you'll hear about it again this week.) And one way or the other, the Twins know that the'll be playing again this week. The question is whether their next game will be a playoff game versus the Rays, or a "play in" game versus the White Sox.
Bet on the latter. Vegas certainly is. They're giving slightly better than 2:1 odds for the White Sox in this game.
There will be lots of talk about how the Tigers want to knock the White Sox out of the playoffs, but in reality, there is almost no incentive for them to do well. It's probably a little bit telling Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen, Gary Sheffield and Edgar Renteria are all listed on the injury report as "day-to-day". Manager Jim Leyland is known to be quite a motivator, but you can be sure that most of that roster would just as soon phone in that game.
The one exception might be the Tigers' pitcher, Freddy Garcia, who will be pitching for a decent offseason contract after a lost season due to shoulder surgery. Unfortunately, incentive only take a guy so far, and they don't instantaneously cure scar tissue. Garcia has had two starts in the majors, and has lasted only five innings in each. His first, against the Rangers, went well. His second, against the Royals, did not. And his AAA stats from this year, where he made 11 starts, are underwhelming as well.
The White Sox will trot out Gavin Floyd, just three days ago in the series finale at the Metrodome. Floyd will be pitching on 3 days rest, and when he did that a week ago he gave up 5 runs in 6.1 innings to KC.
Against the Twins, Floyd threw 101 pitches, but only made it through 5.2 innings. If he leaves relatively early again, Ozzie Guillen will have his two best relievers available. Both Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks pitched yesterday, but neither threw even 10 pitches. So that's another couple of trump cards the White Sox can play.
Finally, it's worth noting that the White Sox have dominated the Tigers this year, even when the Tigers did have plenty of incentive. They're 11-6 against Detroit this year, and 6-2 at home. You might recall them even sweeping a double-header against the Tigers just two weeks ago. And Floyd has two of those 11 wins.
Which brings us to Tuesday. That's when the "+" game will most likely be played, and when I expect the oddsmakers in Vegas to again favor the White Sox. We'll see if the Twins can once again "Prove Them Wrong".
If the "play in" game versus the White Sox becomes a reality, the stats in that game count towards the players regular season totals. That could mean good things for those people hoping for an individual award for Justin Morneau. He would need two RBI to pass Josh Hamilton for the RBI lead.
Joe Mauer;s second batting championship looks to be safe either way. I see Dustin Pedroia didn't play in the Red Sox second game last night, and so he stayed at .326 while Mauer is rounded up to .330. He would need to go 0 for 6 to fall below Pedroia's level.
I'm a little baffled by Pedroia not playing. If you had a shot at a batting championship, wouldn't you play that second game? I'm guessing there is a story there I don't know.